February 26, 2020

Adi Chokkanathar Temple - Madurai

We all know about the famous Meenakshi and Chokkanathar (also called as Sundaresa) Temple in Madurai. However, not many of us might know that there is one more temple for Meenakshi and Chokkanathar in the same city. This article is about the lesser-known site called Adi Chokkanathar temple.

This temple is located at a distance of around 1 km from the main Chokkanathar temple, in Simmakal locality. It is a very small temple but supposed to be very old.

The legend says that the presiding deity, Shiv Linga, was installed by Kubera. It is believed that Budha (one of Navagrahas who represents Jupiter) worshiped this temple.

As per another legend, Idaikadar, a Siddha, was humiliated by a Pandya (the ruler of Madurai). To pacify this great devotee, Lord Shiva from the main temple moved out and traveled to this site. On the next day morning, the priests of the temple reported to the King that they could not find the idol in the temple. The King ultimately found out the idol in this site and also realized his mistake. Thus, a new temple for Shiv Linga named Chokkanatha was built here. As it is located on the northern side, it is also called Uttara Aalavai (Aalavai is another name of Madurai city), which literally means the Northern Madurai.

Historically, there is no inscription or any other authentic record of this temple is found today. We know it is an old temple and the idols of Chokkanathar and Meenakshi seem to be a few hundred years old. However, the current structure of the temple is completely renovated and looks modern.

It looks like originally only Meenakshi and Chokkanather were there. A lot of idols got added up later, which make the temple crowded with many deities.

Chokkanathar (Shiv Linga) is found in the east-facing shrine. Nandi is found in the opposite direction. Meenakshi is given equal status. She is found in the standing posture. Being Meenakshi, she has two arms unlike the other forms of Goddess who have four arms. She has her own shrine on the true right side of Chokkanathar. Nandi is found in front of her shrine.

The entrances of both the shrines have the idols of Ganesh and Subramanya-Valli-Devasena.

Small niche icons of Itcha Shakti, Kriya Shakti and Gnana Shakti are found on the exterior walls of Meenakshi's shrine. Similarly, the walls of Chokkanatha's shrine have the niche images of Dakshinamurti, Lingodbhava and Durga.

Nalvar (the four devotees of Shiva), Navagrahas, Bhairava, Ganesha, Shiv Linga and Chandikeswara are too found in this temple.

An unusual idol is Idaikkadar Siddhar. It is found near Durga. The connection of Idaikkadar with this temple is already seen. A small but stone image of Nataraja is found; Sivakami and the Rishis, Vyagrapada and Patanjali, accompany him.

When you visit the famous Chokkanathar temple of Madurai, spare some time to visit this smaller and unknown Chokkanathar temple too.

Happy travelling.

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